A bite out of the bum

A few minutes after Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma walked off the field taking advantage of the offer of ‘bad light’, an Indian batsman [what with ads taking up half the screen and a giant graphic occupying most of the remaining real estate, I couldn’t make out who] walked out towards the practice area for a bit of a knock. At the same time, Shakib Al-Hasan, with a wry grin on his face and with his eyes slitted against the glare of the evening sun, walked slowly out of the park.

Technology is good – but where in the manual is it written that a light meter should replace common sense?

An hour or more had already been lost in the morning; surely the umpires could have used their minds, and their eyes, to figure that the light was more than good enough for play to continue rather than bank on that silly little gadget? An ICC that wants Test cricket to survive doesn’t do much for that cause when it encourages its officials to abandon play on such laughable pretexts. Surely umpires need to rely on the naked eye, not the light meter, to tell them when conditions are dangerous for play to continue — the meter can merely confirm the evidence of their own senses, not replace it.

As to the play itself, Bangladesh coach Jaimie Siddons was way off the mark when he said Sehwag’s comments about the toothlessness of the Bangla bowling attack could “bite him on the bum in a few years time” – it only took 12 hours.

The way the game unfolded notwithstanding, I’m personally convinced that Shakib Al-Hasan’s ploy of asking India to bat first was a defensive measure. The home team was not, IMHO, betting the bank on its bowlers as much as it was shielding its batsmen from the task of facing India’s 3-seam attack on a wicket with some juice in it [conditions, in fact, that prompted Sehwag to comment at the toss that he would have chosen to bowl, had he called the coin right].

Motivations don’t show up on scoreboards, though – only results do. And Shakib and his men did themselves proud on a day when the vaunted Indian batting lineup was reduced to rubble by a bowling lineup packed not with stars but with a bunch of disciplined youngsters who stuck to their briefs and throughout, remained unfazed by the reputations of the opposition.

India seemed to have fallen victim to its own press. The “world’s number one Test side” apparently forgot that all it really takes is one good ball or one bad shot – and as it turned out, there was enough quality bowling from Bangladesh and silly cricket from the batsmen to make for a disastrous post-lunch session [a missed catch off Tendulkar at 16 being the difference between disastrous and fatal].

Sehwag and Gambhir looked – as they always do – capable of decimating the opposition. But once the stand-in captain got out, playing a push-drive without his usual authority and giving the ball just enough air for Tamim Iqbal at a shortish cover to hang on to, the wheels came off in totally unexpected fashion.

Gambhir flailed at a ball too wide for the square drive that is his bread and butter shot; Dravid got a high quality delivery from Shahadat – yorker-length, late curve through the air and perfectly pitched; VVS looked patchy; Yuvraj Singh [whose franchise recently relieved him of his captaincy so he could ‘concentrate on his batting’] has, except for the first innings he played after his return to the ranks, sleep-walked through his batting assignments and continued to do so in this innings…

If not for Tendulkar’s ability to lock himself into a world of his making and play his own game irrespective, India’s embarrassment could have been monumental – and due credit for that goes to skipper Shakib.

Prior to the game, Shakib set expectations low when he said his goal was a draw in the first Test, but there was nothing defensive about his captaincy on the day. Except against Sehwag once the opener had the bit between his teeth, the field placings remained consistently aggressive and always calculated to give his bowlers the chance to attack; his rotation of the bowling resources was fairly thoughtful, and he was consistently good in the way he harnessed his pace and spin options to optimum effect.

The highlight for me was his bowling to Sehwag in the post-lunch session, when he repeatedly foxed the Indian captain with subtle variations of flight, line, length and direction, eventually forcing the tentative miscue. Not too many spinners can boast of having tied Sehwag up and forced him to play the get out shot — Shakib, despite being hit for a first ball four, made the dismissal look almost inevitable. VVS, too, is a master of the art of playing spin but on the day, the Bangladesh captain made him look a rank amateur, tormenting the stylist with almost every one of the 17 balls he bowled to him before finally claiming his wicket when Laxman, a modern master of playing inside out, got bat and legs into an awful tangle and yielded a simple stumping chance.

Shakib led the bowling effort with 25 overs of sustained cunning. The Bangla captain comes across as someone clearly aware of his bowling limitations and willing to work within the limitations of his own craft; his marathon spell of 25 unchanged overs proved decisive in pushing India to the wall.

Equally notable was young Shahadat Hussain, who bowled in sharp, hostile bursts. The tall young lad, who served notice that he was one to watch a couple of years ago with a 6-for-27 spell against South Africa, has the height and smooth run up of a genuine pace bowler; his slightly open-chested delivery allows him to get the natural angle away from right handers and to use the rare one coming in as a surprise weapon — vide the lovely late-inswinging yorker to castle Dravid.

The image of the day for me was Shahadat’s celebration after the fall of Dinesh Karthik’s wicket — the youngster raced down the pitch and, when in proximity to the departing batsman, put his finger to his lips in a ‘talk less, play more’ gesture that the team, and its stand-in captain, surely begged for with the dismissive remarks of yesterday.

Hopefully, the message of that gesture — and of the scoreboard, which reads an underwhelming 213/8 in just 63 overs — has gotten across. Had fog and bad light not delayed the start of play and the umpires not abruptly truncated it with a little under half an hour yet to go, India could have suffered the huge embarrassment of being bowled out inside a day’s play by a team ranked 8 places below it.

39 thoughts on “A bite out of the bum

  1. This post is in reality the most poignant on this noteworthy topic. I absolutely feel the same way with your viewpoints and will hungrily look forward to your approaching updates. Just saying thanks will not just be sufficient, for the tremendous lucidity in your writing. I will at once grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. Admirable work and much success in your writing!

  2. Well – it does look like Sehwag had the last laugh. He went on to say that if they play well they can beat Bangladesh easily in the next test. 🙂

    • I wouldn’t call that the last laugh. It’s more like mocking the opposition. In fact, to me his statement only confirmed what I initially thought: that he was being disrespectful of the opposition. Saying we are confident of winning is different from mocking the opposition, knowing very well that the opposition is not in the same class.

    • If Sehwag had been questions in Hindi instead of English, his responses would probably have been more measured. He probably said ordinary because he could not find a better word. But what he said ultimately was true, until a team is good enough to take 20 wickets they can never win test matches.
      The Bangladeshis proved him wrong only to an extent, but then went on to show that their batting also deserves the ordinary tag.

    • Kalki, you look at the issue from this angle: everybody knows that Bangladesh is not a match to India in tests as of now. Actually, you are talking about a big gulf between the two countries. It really surprises me that you consider a margin of 100+ victoy (how much would you value the 2 wickets that India had, 20-30 runs?) proves the Sehwag’s point. As far as I am concerned, it is quite the opposite. It disproves Sehwag’s point. If not for the “ordinariness” of the Bangladeshi batsmen, India would have been fighting to SAVE this test, mind you. Even in the second innings, in a much favourable playing conditions, Bangladesh restricted India to 400+, which a SriLankan attack could not do in India. Please keep that in mind. They may not be able to replicate this performance so often, but this test just proves that it is dangerous to write them off like Sehwag did.

  3. Technology is good – but where in the manual is it written that a light meter should replace common sense?

    Because it replaces bias. If an umpire offers Australia the light to save a match but doesn’t offer India in a similar situation , everyone will complain. A light meter is unbiased.

  4. too much is being made of sehwags comments. this is sehwag- he has always said things like this and he scored close to his average in this innings. not his fault if his teammates – except for Sachin- chose this precise innings to forget how to bat.
    i think the weather will ensure that the match ends in a draw.

  5. Just for fun: is there any chance Sehwag’s words played a part in the Indian collapse? Did those words put pressure on the lower oder once the VS,GG and RD was back in hut? Surely, SRT & VVS has the mental ability to be not affected by that. But I am not sure about others…

  6. I know we have praised Sehwag on this blog before for his “frank remarks”, candid statements etc instead of being the plain, dull, run-of-the-mill kind of guy like a Tendulkar or Dravid. We liked him for his ability to come differently in interviews and press conferences.

    And then, when he made a matter-of-fact statement, that this Bangladesh attack is ordinary, and which in fact it is, and if the batsman play poor shots and get out, we in our collective hindsight blame Sehwag for his “arrogant” statement. How fair are we to him? If you expect him to be frank, you should also expect him to get egg in his face once in a while. Nothing wrong with that.

    Let us allow the man to be honest. If his statements come untrue once in a while, it is still OK and not the end of the world. As Sehwag himself would probably now say, there is still another innings and the rest of the series left to prove that his words are indeed true.

    • Kalki, I am not too sure if the Bang bowling is “ordinary” in home grounds. Of course, they are not top class, but then they are at least average when it comes to their own conditions in terms of bowling. It is their batsmen who have always failed to up the ante. Perhaps, at least somebody in the press should have pointed out to Sehwag that Shakib Al Hasan has the highest bowling average among all the bowlers in both sides (if you cant believe, check it out). Shooting off the mouth without knowing basic facts is not “being frank”, but “idiotic”. Now, I am not saying that India will capitulate like the first innings anytime in this seris again. I dont think it would happen. But I dont think that justifies Sehwag’s rather poor-judged remarks.

      • If you read the reports again, he said that they were a poor test side. Which I believe is true. If India loses this test, it is more because of their batsmen playing poor shots than losing to a team on ability.

        The batsmen did not live up to Sehwag’s expectations – and for that you cannot blame his frank opinion. Do you seriously consider this Bangla attack, even on its own soil, of the SA, Pak, Australian or even Sri Lankan type? They are not and it is amusing to see our Indian batsmen bat the way they did. Dravid alone got a good ball. Yuvraj, Dinesh Karthik, Laxman played like novices and there in lay the issue.

        I am sure VVSL will come up with the goods in the second innings – he is back after a break.

        • I am not sure if we are reading the same reports. This is what I read:
          “Bangladesh are an ordinary side. They can’t beat India because they can’t take 20 wickets.”

          You are saying the batsmen played poor shots. Why do you think that happens? It is because they take the bowlers as “ordinary”. It is very much in line with the attittude that Sehwag expressed. I am not saying that the batsmen played badly because Sehwag said it, but that Sehwag’s words represented a team attittude. Now, you can escape with that attittude against a bunch of “team B” bowlers. But Bangladesh is not definitely “team B”, as Sehwag expected them to be. Thats all.

    • When Sehwag says “After I get to 60s or 70s I feel confident that no bowler in the world can get me out”, that is not arrogance, he is talking solely about the confidence he has in his batting and the way he makes his runs back him up. It is a totally different thing when he talks of a bowling attack in such derogatory terms before a ball is bowled in the Test series. Federer is known to make immodest remarks of his game in similar fashion, and like Sehwag nobody takes offence to it, but he also never disrespects an opponent. I hope you get the difference.

      • Well – that has how he has been talking all along and people liked it. Now that he has egg on his face, we cannot suddenly not like it. We have to take both sides of his character.


        A journalist asked the obvious question – can Bangladesh surprise India? “No. They can’t beat us in Test matches,” Sehwag said. “They can surprise you in ODIs but not in Tests.”

        Why? “Because they can’t take 20 Indian wickets. Even Sri Lanka found it difficult. Bangladesh can’t. They are an ordinary side.”

        There was not even an attempt at civility. There were no standard responses like “they are an upcoming side”, “you can’t take anyone lightly”, or “they have some talented players.” Nothing. He just saw the ball and hit it.

        It’s not as if Sehwag was even trying to be provocative. There certainly was no condescension, nor was it an act of trying to win any psychological points. It’s how he has usually been addressing press conferences for some time now. And it certainly wasn’t directed, at least solely, against Bangladesh.

        • I have not read any comments from Sehwag that was as disrespectful as the one he just made against the Bangla bowling attack and I can’t think of any other side that he could have made such statements and gotten away with it. As I mentioned in my post, Zaheer had made a similar statement against Australia but that was after they failed to get 20 wickets in the first test. Dismissing an opponent before you have played them is downright arrogant no matter what their previous record suggests.

        • Kalki, you are confusing an individual’s assessment in his abilities vs individual’s assessment in other’s abilities. While you can say anything on earth about your abilities(of course, as long as you back it up with deeds), it is not the same when you talk about another’s abilities. Now, I am not blaming Sehwag for “being disrespectful”, but I think he has been “idiotic”.

          • In closer lines, I vaguely remember Sehwag saying a few years back about he “being only one in the batting lineup who could have won” a particular test (I dont remember which test, it was a few years back and the requird run rate was probably high), something like that. I am not sure how the likes of Sachin/Dravid & Co would have taken that statement. They are mature, and probably would have ignored. But I felt somewhat weird. It is true that Sehwag is the only one guy who can really give a charge even if India has a strong middle order. But I am not sure if that kind of a statement needed to be made in public. It is a statement from a man who thought only about himself at that moment. It is quite okay to criticize a guy whenever he has these “brain lapses” once in a while, even if he is a frank and honest guy. That keeps him sharp.

            • Wow..wow…wow. What’s wrong in what Sehwag said? How many tests has BD won so far and how many against India? If McGrath says that they will win the Ashes 5-0 (and then go on to lose the series) it’s Ok – it’s not termed brain lapsel not arrogance; it’s the supreme confidence the Aussies have, they are brought up with that mindset,etc. etc. If one guy chooses not to be PC in this PC world and spekas his mind everybody jumps on him. What is the most often heard comment about Indian sportsmen – they lack killer instinct; we give too much credit to the opposition. And then, the test is only one day old; isn’t it too early to castigate Sehwag? He is a fresh breath of air – let him stay that way. Talking about how his commenst will hurt SRT, RD, VVS is nonsense; we don’t share the same dressing room to read their minds. I agree with someone who mentioned how Federer talks about his game and people take it as ‘frank and matter of fact comments’ but when Sehwag does the same it is not the same. Can’t understand the Indian psyche.

                • if you read Sriram Veera’s write up on Cricinfo he gives two instances where BD hit back after being labeled worthless.

                  these were:

                  WC where Indian players complained to Mortaza about the tight scheduling of the WC final and the subsequent BD series. the assumption being that going to the next stage by beating BD was a given. Mortaza, all charged up, spoke about it in a team meeting and the next day India were duly spanked.

                  the second instance was the current test day 1.

                  does it mean that you need to call them names to get the best out of them. i feel had Sehwag been diplomatic or even praised BD they would have happily folded up like before. he is correct – BD after so many years are still driven by their heart and not their head – insult them to get the best out of them. they are indeed a very ordinary test team. in that sense Sehwag has done the right thing to instigate and get some life in the opposition.

                  at another level the Indian batsmen played poorly, something they do routinely against all levels of opposition. they are fair and generous to all teams.

                  lastly the test is far from over. BD lost three wickets in three overs. tomorrow is day 3 and Sehwag may also want to walk his talk at some stage in the match. lets wait before declaring the yellow / white stuff on Sehwag’s face as an egg. it may well be ‘war paint’.

                  • Vikas,

                    more than BD playing all fired-up, i think it is the complacency of the Indians that has been the predominant factor in both cases. If you look at both instances, the Indian batting collapsed to some decent, not dangerous, bowling. Lapse in concentration can easily happen if you dont consider the opponents worthy.

                    • agreed, the Indian team takes BD a bit too casually for their own comfort. if you dig deeper these lapses in concentration have happened against all opposition without any bias for quality.

                      this still leaves the question of ordinariness of BD on the table and i feel Sehwag was not wrong there. just that the Indian batting line up colluded to distract from the core issue for a brief moment.
                      [the 6th BD wicket has fallen for 98 as i write this]

                      unlike Zaheer and Harbhajan, Sehwag is not given to loose talk.

  7. I read the headline yesterday about Sehwag calling the Bangladesh bowling ordinary and found it slightly disrespectful and full of hubris. Maybe Sehwag will learn a little to keep his bravado down a bit. I thought it was a little cowardly of him not to come out for the post-match press meeting.

    • Not sure if he did not come to the conference. I thought the captain did not address at the end of each day. Yesterday, it was Tendulkar who played a good knock and hence appeared.

      It will be interesting to see what he says when he talks the next time during this test – knowing him, he may come up with another classic one liner to remember 🙂

  8. well, it was interesting. if there wasn’t any dew factor, etc. involved, i’m sure they would have batted better. also, all teams have off days, and we still have god not out, so we’re good for around 250.
    also, the bangla batsmen suck balls.

  9. I don’t want to debate the necessity/propriety of Sehwag’s statement – I think it was unnecessary, Sehwag thought it wasn’t. But I will say this: (1) nobody thrills or maddens me as much as Sehwag and (2) I don’t think Sehwag is going to change anything about the way he gives interviews.

    Whether it’s on the field or while giving interviews, Sehwag “sees the ball and hits the ball”. When it comes off well, we enjoy it : examples include http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/425149.html , http://www.cricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/425149.html , http://www.cricinfo.com/indvsl2009/engine/match/430883.html . We argue that he speaks his mind and therefore gives fun interviews, instead of the inanities that are usually dished out. We are thrilled by his fearless strokeplay and argue that his uncluttered mind and devastating scoring rate make him “the new Bradman”.

    However, when Sehwag plays a shot nobody else would touch with a barge pole and fails in execution, he is left with a lot of egg on his face. He looks arrogant and contemptuous. Not that he cares. Public strictures from Rahul Dravid in New Zealand on how he should learn to bat in different gears, especially while trying to save Test matches, hasn’t made an iota of difference. Similarly, I don’t think this embarrassment is going to make him more guarded while giving interviews. Was the statement necessary? Most of us, including me, would argue that such machismo is unnecessary. But then most people, including professional cricketers, would say that many of his shots are unnecessary and impossible. Yet he pulls them off on numerous occasions, not caring for the potential eggs on his face or bites out of bums.

    In the ideal scenario, we would like Sehwag to thrill while batting and giving interviews without getting out or upsetting anybody. I guess that is too difficult, even for Sehwag. Perhaps, we should take him as he is : the quintessential Apple poster boy who Thinks Different.

  10. Sehwag’s statement seems to follow the trend set by the team in recent years. Zaheer said something on similar lines against the Aussies at the start of the ’08 home series, Bhajji shoots his mouth off at every press conference he attends and now this. A silly attempt to copy the mental disintegration tactics of the Waugh-era Aussies or just another blunt remark from an arrogant player – yes, that was arrogant, even if it did come from Sehwag as it was not about his batting – it does show the team in poor light.

    As a nation, we seem to be really good at copying all the bad stuff and very little of the good ones from others. We could have copied the discipline of the Australians in their training and their devotion to winning every game they play but instead we seem to be getting good at playing silly games against the opposition – the kind that the Aussies indulged in during their period of dominance and in doing so forever damaged their reputation as one of the greatest teams to played the sport.

  11. What more needs to happen for the team to drop Yuvraj and give someone else like Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli a chance? He is not at all suited for Test cricket. He averages 32.83 in 19 innings (2 not outs). His last century (169) came against Pakistan in the first innings in Dec 2007 in Bangalore. Since then he has five 50+ scores – but all of them came when other batsmen were doing well.

    Following is the stats for the regular batsmen since the Pakistan test-

    Sehwag – 2145 runs, 59.58 avg, (37 inn, 1 not out), 8 50s, 2 100s, 2 200s, 1 300
    Gambhir – 1887 runs, 72.58 avg (27 inn, 1 not out), 7 50s, 6 100s, 1 200
    Dravid – 1619 runs, 41.51 avg (42 inn, 3 not outs), 9 50s, 4 100s
    Sachin – 1757 runs, 54.91 avg (37 inn, 5 not outs), 8 50s, 6 100s
    Laxman – 1646 runs, 49.88 avg (40 inn, 7 not outs), 12 50s, 2 100s, 1 200
    Yuvraj – 558 runs, 32.83 (19 inn, 2 not outs), 5 50s, zero 100s
    Dhoni – 1013 runs, 42.21 (27 inn, 3 not outs), 8 50s, 2 100s

    Don’t the stats speak for themselves?

    • Why don’t you look at Yuvraj’s run of scores since he found a permanent place in the test team (Ind- Eng series)? Also check in on Dinesk Karthik’s scores, averages, career averages, etc and also a few reports of his keeping from Hindu (TN v Hyd, dropping Rayudu three times in one innings) … In fact, check the scorecard of this match and find thre bats with single digit figures. (Lets not pretend any of Raina, Kohli are in line for a test spot). You may recall the humiliation of SL-Ind humiliation… the MO collapses comprising RD, SRT, VVS, DK did diddly-swat. (can’t blame any one else… yet, how many got dropped?). What has DK done from that series.. in SL tests, NZ tests and now this?

      In sum, please remember that the Top Order has cashed in on a run-glot of the SL series last year: there, Yuvraj-Dhoni helped out Dravid after the collapse in 1st test – to save the test – then didn’t get to bat. Yuvi also did well in the second test as well. Then check out the Mohali v England test, 2nd innings when the esteemed top order (barring Gambhir) collapsed shamelessly. Yuvi and Gambhir rescue India from a tricky situation. Then look at the landmark 100 from Sachin in Chennai v England… who exactly was on the other end, and had the chance of getting a century (but for lack of runs). Such inngs are NOT meant to be made by mediocre (ie. only good for ODIs) bats. (Sachin remarked, Yuvi played a champion inngs).

      If you want to blame any one for it – try Bangadesh bowlers .. but mostly, the PITCH. Lets wait for the second innings.

      • Dude, Dinesh Karthik is not a regular in the test side and you chose to compare Yuvraj’s performance against his? Why don’t you choose one of the regular middle-order batsmen in the team for the comparison? And, while you are at it, compare his scores and that of other batsmen in India Vs abroad.

        • MY FRIEND, Why have you mentioned Dhonil to prove a point? And hasn’t Dinesh Kathiik played as a specialist batsman for some crazy reason best know to the selectors and tea-cup? What you say? (D*K is a threat to everyone… unless at everything.. a quota player par excellence).
          BTW, what is the difference in playing on a fllat track in India or Pakistan or Australia or England or South Africa? Doesn’t India produce difficult pitches ala Ahmedabad (IndivSA 2008)? But I shall humour you … what have Kohli and Raina done abroad? PLEASE GIVE ME ANSWERS.

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